Saw this interesting topic on Facebook and thought I'd repost it here as it contains some really well thought out arguments from guys with a LOT of racing experience in Canada and the USA. Names and details edited for privacy.
Real question: Why does Master's racing exist in cycling? I'm curious to hear if/how people find it adds value to their experience as opposed to just racing Cat 3 or Cat 1/2/
For me Michael it's the difference between racing and being pack fodder. Masters racing when done properly allows fast, safe, and exciting racing for guys who have families/mortgages/careers etc and can't/won't take the risks necessary to compete at the elite level. It also means I can be competitive amongst my peer group on 10-15 hrs a week of training. Although there are races when I race elite I'd rather race masters if it was possible. As a life long cat 2 racer I can say that when I take a masters start now I know it will be safe/respectful/challenging and super fun. Can't say the same for racing pro/1/2. That's a level I'm not interested in- other than a Tuesday niter/spring series.
It seems that event organizers are striving to fill categories before thinking of the logistics. Mixing 3/4. In a big race is a bad idea. Having cat 1/2 mixing in with masters is also a mismatch. For the event organizer it comes down to numbers, but the mix is not particularly safe or fair to the athlete. IMO
As someone who's raced at the upper echelon of the sport I can say that the Masters experience is far different than Elite. The speed is 1-2km/h slower, the attacks while difficult aren't as prolonged, and there is time for recovery for an aging body. When you couple this with a career, and other life priorities such as kids it's fun to go out in a semi-competitive environment and have fun. Racing with other M1/2/3 racers who've proven themselves over the years ensures that we all go home and to work on Monday. Elite racing is another breed. In Elite racing you have to be prepared to go into every corner willing to accept the risks and be able to get yourself out of sticky situations. In Master's racing time and space are just a little more prevalent and if you aren't a douche and know how to ride your bike I'm going to give you that wheel. As we age our bodies change and while some of us can still rip it w/ the pro's at 50kph for an hour most don't want to, they'd rather take it one notch back, have some fun, drink beer afterwards and tell fish stories.
As for fixing the system for the aging athlete only - I think it's very easy. If you are over 35 you are automatically issued a Master's license. You work your way up the category system racing other Master's. If you think you can hold your own with the elites at Nationals or are on a team where entry into UCI events are on the program then you are issued an Elite License. Many other countries adopt this approach and it seems to work. In the USA you can race both Masters and Elites in one day - Masters for your Age/cat (ie. M35+Cat1/2/3) and then Elite 1 or 2. Imagine if we implemented such a system up North? We'd offer race organizers another stream of revenue without having to find additional bodies.
Locally, we place the Elite and Master 1/2/3 in the same fields at smaller events such as Spring Series but as the season builds and the fields increase (theoretically) at Premier Series Events we leave it to the discretion of the organizer and PSO to build out Masters categories. Offering Premier Series Jersey's for Elite 1/2/3, Masters 1/2/3 35+, and Masters 55+ 3/4/5. No more M30+, M40+, M50+ -- the majority of the fast guys are 45-55 anyhow.
What do you think about Masters racing in general and how it mixes with Elite racing in North America? Add your comments below.
One final thought:
"The money and support that elite racing needs comes directly from masters races, their companies, and their business networks. Arthur Silber (aka Silber Pro Cycling) is a financial planner/investor. His most lucrative demographic is the 45-55 year old successful high income earner. Ironman triathlon has it figured out. The age group with the most discretionary income and the most competitive non-pro race times are 45-55. BC Superweek is the perfect place to add some key Masters events in order to bring exposure and new sponsors/companies/networks. In the US the 35+ Masters racing is thriving. This is the single biggest racing demographic in North America and will increase entry fees for organizers and bring new sponsorship dollars to the races"